This upcoming Thursday, February 2nd, 2023, is Groundhog Day. This holiday is celebrated annually in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania and it is solely dependent on the town’s beloved groundhog, Phil. But why was this unique holiday started and how does it work?
The first ever Groundhog Day began on February 2nd, 1887. The rodent ritual was greatly influenced by pre-Christian, German holiday called Candlemas Day and it was brought to the United States by the Pennsylavian-Dutch immigrants. Candlemas Day even has its own song that highlights how Groundhog Day works:
If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come, Winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Go Winter, and not come again.
Candlemas Day foretells if spring will come by the weather of that day. If it is sunny and clear, winter lasts longer, but if it’s rainy and dark, spring is soon. Groundhog Day is extremely similar, but how did a large, heavy-bodied rodent turn into the mascot?
The idea of an animal deciding the upcoming season was not introduced for any real reason besides common belief. A groundhog being the center of the tradition was introduced as lore and it has been celebrated that way ever since.
Nowadays, we have simple rules for the holiday. If Phil comes out of his hole, sees his shadow and goes back into his burrow, this means six more weeks of winter; no shadow means early spring. One student, Ashlyn Brown says, “I hope he gets scared because I like the snow.”
So get your predictions ready and be prepared for a longer, harsh winter or a well-awaited spring. And remember folks, there is only ONE Punxsutawney Phil and all the other ones are imposters!